Montessori toys are often thought to be the educational materials developed by the Montessori founder - Maria Montessori. Others use the term more loosely to describe any plaything that is rooted in Montessori principles.
In our opinion, any toy that encourages imagination, free play and creativity can be a "Montessori" toy. Still, there are the top three common traits that you can look out for when you go toy shopping or when you put your baby's birthday wish list together.
One easily distinguished difference is that most toys on the market are battery-operated, brightly coloured and can play various sounds and lights. They also tend to promise the development of a multitude of skills, such as music and walking.
Toys you will find in a typical Montessori environment will focus on developing a single skill and are not that complicated to operate.
A common feature in many Montessori inspired toys is that they are realistic or based on reality. These toys encourage discoveries about the environment in which we live and use real images instead of illustrations. Babies and young children can't distinguish reality from fantasy yet, but giving them real-world examples allows their imagination to take flight.
Montessori toys encourage your baby to use their imagination, ideas and problem-solving skills. Flashy and noisy toys do all the play for your baby, whereas toys based on Montessori principles invite your child to come up with different ways to play.
Does this mean you have to throw out all your other toys? Of course not! Many toys can follow Montessori principles, like LEGO. Before you pack away or donate a toy, ask yourself if it encourages your baby's independence and fosters their creativity. If you can answer yes, keep the toy.
Another equally important question to ask yourself is if your baby's play space is aligned with Montessori ideas.
Does his playroom allow for independence? Providing a low toy shelf that enables your baby to select a toy anytime he wants is a simple change you can make today.
Less is more in a Montessori playroom. Contrary to what parents think, fewer toys encourage more independent play. A smaller selection will promote creativity and imaginative play. Instead, rotate toys every other week to keep your baby engaged and excited about their choices.
Lastly, is the play space an environment of beauty? No need to hire a decorator, but ensuring that the area is pleasing will help your baby enjoy his playtime even more. Add beautiful and functional furniture, a few plants and pictures, and you're ready for purposeful play!